Chasing Art: Evgeni Malkin having a season for the ages

Feb 29, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) celebrates the goal against Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (not pictured) during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Penguins defeated the Stars 4-3 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
The past 23 times the NHL has awarded the Art Ross trophy to the league's leading scorer, the recipient has been a Pittsburgh Penguin 13 times. Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have all added their chapters to a legacy of dominance.

Malkin is putting the finishing touches on Chapter 14 as we speak. In order not to take it forgranted and to give Geno his due, let's dig into the numbers he has put up this season and take a minute to look back and appreciate the special kind of flair and excellence that has been on display.

-In October, a scoring title was the furthest thing from anyone's mind. Evgeni Malkin, fresh off a February ACL tear, surgery and a summer's worth of rehab only played the season's first two games before leaving the lineup with knee and scar soreness and scar issues. It seemed the serious injury might dog him for much of the year, but Geno was able to return on October 13th for a very special game against the Washington Capitals that he and Alex Ovechkin were leading fundraising efforts to support the families of those killed in the tragic Yaroslavl plane accident. Malkin assisted on both the Penguin goals in a 3-2 OT loss before sitting out the next 5 games again suffering from knee soreness. -Since then, however, Malkin has appeared in every game the Pens have played. And not only that, he's played like a man possessed. Only 14 times has Malkin been held pointless since his return in late October, and 23 times since then he has recorded multi-point games. -Malkin's current rate of 1.43 points per game is highest of the league (save Crosby, who's got 1.75 in just the 12 games he's played). -Geno hasn't just been fattening up on the power play. His 64 even strength points lead the league and other than Steven Stamkos (62) no other player in the league is closer than 10 points back. -Expand your view to overall points and Malkin's lapping the field even faster. Stamkos and Claude Giroux current sit nine points back of Geno, but then just 3 more players in the entire league are closer than 20 points to him. No one's hardly even in Malkin's neighborhood. -A stat that's been floating around the internet also confirms this: of the 10 times this year a player has scored 5+ points in a game, 4 of those performances belong to Malkin. -Post-all star game Malkin has been a force, growing stronger as the season goes by with 35 points (17g, 18a) in 23 games. -He also gets stronger by the period as the games go on, with 25 points in the first period, 31 in the second period and 36 in the third. -Day games have also been no problem with 28 points (13g, 15a) in 13 games. -Malkin was named the NHL's first star on the month in December and the 2nd star of the league in January. -Then there's helping others. James Neal has been attached virtually to the hip with Malkin on the top line and he's had a career year. And while there's no doubt Neal's made his own luck with his work and ability. But you know how many assists Malkin has on Neal's 32 goals this season? 24. You're welcome, lazy. -Shootouts. Some people love 'em, some people hate 'em, but they're a part of the game and a very important one, especially for a team like Pittsburgh who's played in 12 of them so far this season, winning 9 of them. And Malkin's been a key reason in helping Pittsburgh earn the extra point by scoring on 8 of his 11 attempts. That ranks him 2nd in the league in SO goals and percentage (behind Ilya Kovalchuk in both categories). -Malkin's 43 goals are 4 from tying his career high and he's currently 20 points under his personal best in a season, the 113 points from his last scoring title. Add it all up and what do you get? A very special year from a very special and dynamic player. Evgeni Malkin has truly had a season for the ages, and Penguins fans, in a way, are spoiled again to see yet another chapter of a lengthy Art Ross novel.

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